Durban - The newly elected MEC for Education, Peggy Nkonyeni, is confident the work done by her predecessor, Senzo Mchunu, has stood Grade 12 pupils in good stead, and says a 75 percent pass rate is attainable this year.
In KwaZulu-Natal, 150 061 full-time candidates and 24 733 part-time candidates are expected to write the matric exams, which begin on Monday.
Nkonyeni said the department’s goal was to ensure an “irregularity-free” process.
“The Department of Education in KwaZulu-Natal has a lot of experience with regard to ensuring the National Senior Certificate runs smoothly.”
Nkonyeni said although she could not divulge details of the security measures, all systems were in place and all role-players were working together at the 1 733 examination centres and 27 marking centres to prevent papers being leaked.
She said the department was confident of a pass rate of more than 75 percent, possibly even 80 percent.
The foundation laid by Mchunu included the curriculum management strategy, provincial common tests to assess where intervention was needed, matric intervention programmes and Operation Scaffold, which offered support to schools with a pass rate below 35 percent.
“The former MEC realised one of the challenges the department faced was that teachers weren’t trained in their subject areas, particularly maths and science.
“He focused on training teachers, who were then assessed to ensure they understood what they taught.”
Mchunu had worked hard to identify gaps in education and to provide intervention methods to address these. This was something she would work on and develop during her tenure as MEC, Nkonyeni said.
“The government intervention, such as the annual national assessments, will also help the department with improving the matric results.
“I have full confidence in the administrative dealings with regards to the matric papers.”
Although the DA’s provincial spokesman on education, Tom Stokes, agreed that, administratively, the exams would be run well, he raised concerns about the competence of matric markers.
In August, the Department of Basic Education said the matric marker competency tests, which were to have been written this year, would be shelved for a year because of strong opposition from the South African Democratic Teachers Union.
Stokes said he had questioned the competency of matric markers at a education portfolio committee meeting, and was told it was a national matter.
“The Western Cape has competency tests irrespective of the Basic Education Department’s principles. The competency of markers in the province is problematic.”
Stokes said there was a need for objective and continual testing from Grade 1 to Grade 12, similar to the Annual National Assessments, to ensure pupils’ competency at each stage of their schooling.
“We need to be able to predict with a level of certainty what type of grade each pupil will get for matric. At the moment it’s just a lottery.”
The National Association for School Governing Bodies is confident the people tasked with selecting the matric markers are capable of identifying those who can do the job.
“From our observations, teachers have done their jobs, although there are always a few discrepancies,” association chairman Reginald Chiliza said.
He praised the winter and spring school programmes aimed at ensuring pupils were up to speed with their work.